Omakase-style meals in traditional Japanese restaurants consist of dishes selected by the chef – from their ingredients to their sequence. No matter what you think about letting a stranger decide on your sacred dinner choices, at the new San Francisco sushi bar Omakase it would be better to throw away all caution and let yourself be awashed in sheer bliss of Chef Jackson Yu’s inspired cuisine.
The minimalist facility with only 14 seats, all facing the bar, and the sparse décor of cedar, bamboo, and artisanal pottery serve as a clean and simple framing for the fine art of sushi-making with the highest quality seafood flown in three times a week from Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market.
Metal and ceramic dinnerware at Omakase is mostly custom-made, and if you choose the light and fruity Nishida “Kikuizumi” sake to accompany your multi-course dinner, it will be served on a bowl of ice in a hand-made cut crystal sake set of the bluest blue.
A salad of seasonal vegetables topped with green herring row with snow crab, lobster, and seaweed, and a side of tamari sushi ball with a slice of fresh ginger makes a great starter.
It can be followed by a tender uni (sea urchin) cake with seaweed and micro greens.Then the main act of the magic show begins.
For a sashimi plate Chef Jackson starts with grating fresh wasabi root until it turns into a creamy bright-green condiment we all know and [some of us] love. He places Japanese ika (squid) in its own tiny glazed ceramic bowl with a slice of lemon, a few droplets of salmon roe, and a tiny speck of 24K gold leaf for added effect.
Next to the tiny bowl of ika, on an elongated silvery plate you can find ruby cubes of maguro, squares of blue fin tuna, and some meaty pieces of lighter pink shimaji, interspersed with radish slices and shavings, micro greens, shaved carrot, and sharp-edged Japanese mint leaf. House-made soy sauce is poured in a little golden bowl on a side.
The chef gladly explains that fish colors in sushi tend to progress from lighter to brighter ones, and that to prepare a filet of squid the right way it is necessary to make 27 tiny cuts on each side of it with a sharp knife.
Next course – nigiri sushi – is served on a traditional rectangular plate called “arita” decorated in one of the four traditional design patterns. The plate remains on a bar between the working chef and the diner who is supposed to take each newly formed piece with his fingers and consume immediately. A hot towel is placed in front of him for in-between finger cleaning.
Young sea brim, Hokkaido scallop, Spanish mackerel (torched to sear the tight thin skin), fatty tuna, Copper River salmon, and other delectable morsels appear one by one on a plate – all fresh, tempting and variously delicious.
A little dish of striped bass in shoyu marinade can be served sometime in-between nigiri – grilled with crispy skin on a bed of English pea sauce.
Another in-between plate might contain monk fish liver cooked with soy, mirin sake, and ginger, and garnished with shaved celery.
Yet another one – little wooden spoons with ikura and uni over a ball of fluffy rice.
While creating a perfectly folded hand roll of fatty tuna and ikura, Chef Jackson explains that the two outer corners of a nori leaf must coincide perfectly – and of course they do.
After the hand roll comes the final dish – Manila clam soup, which might seem like a strange choice for a finale, but by then no one would question the Chef’s order. Top to bottom, it’s a perfect meal.
Since the menu is based on many variables, it’s hard to predict what will be served tomorrow or a month from now. One thing is certain – a meal at Omakase is a festive and memorable event in a very sensory sense.Just opened by restaurateur Kash Feng in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, the restaurant offers three pricing options: $100, $150, and $200. Based on what they spend, guests are served a series of chef-chosen items.
Chef Yu, 36 years old, has been preparing Japanese cuisine since he was a teenager and has trained with well-known Japanese chefs. From premier restaurants in the Bay Area, to Ginza in Japan, he has become known for his impeccable knife skills. Working with Chef Yu are chefs Ingi Son, with 17 years of experience at restaurants from New York to Las Vegas and Napa, and Yoshihito Yoshimoto, a native of Osaka who has been in the restaurant business for 37 years at venues from coast to coast including Hawaii.Omakase, located at 665 Townsend Street, San Francisco, California, is open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. For reservations, which are recommended, or for more information, call (415) 865-0633 or visit, www.omakasesf.com.